Chris Bailey and Ed Keupper met while students at Brisbane’s Oxley High School, Kuepper was born in Bremen, West Germany in 1956 and his parents immigrated to Australia when he was three years old, settling in the working class south-western Brisbane suburb of Oxley. Chris Bailey was born in Nanyuki, Kenya in 1957 to an Irish immigrant family there, his family immigrated to Australia in 1967 and settled in the housing commission area of Inala, also south-west of Brisbane. Bailey was a hippie and anti-war demonstrator, while Keupper had to endure the casual racist taunts of his classmates, they bonded over a shared interest in music and politics, both left school and took casual jobs. Ed had been playing guitar since the age of thirteen and preferred Bailey singing, believing that as a guitarist and songwriter he could stay in the shadows while the singer up front could get all the attention. This suited Bailey fine – “Any rock band worth its salt has the local loony on lead vocals, that was the role I performed.” In the photo below left to right-Chris Bailey (vocals), Ivor Hay (drums), Kym Bradshaw (bass), and Ed Kuepper (guitar).
In 1973, they met Ivor Hay, from the nearby suburb of Corinda, and formed Kid Galahad and the Eternals, changing their name to the Saints in 1974, because they felt that it had a good street gang ring to it, echoing the attitude of fifties garage bands.
The band emerged in 1974 as a riotous, fast-driving group, mashing the influences of the Pretty Things, MC5 (above left) and the Stooges (above right) to produce a pioneer Aussie punk sound. The gritty R&B of such local 60’s bands as Brisbane’s Purple Hearts, and Sydney’s Throb and the Missing Links, were also early influences, and the Saints covered several of these songs on their early albums.
From their early days practising and performing in Ivor Hay’s house in Petrie Tce. Brisbane opposite a police station, which became the band’s very own Club 76, the Saints defied convention and marched to a different drum. They were determined that they would rise from the culturally oppressive, racist, corrupt, and stifling political environment of the Bjelke-Petersen regime in Qld.to become an independent musical force making few concessions to commerciality along the way.
They pre-dated the output of the UK punk bands such as the Sex the Pistols, the Buzzcocks and the Damned and were contemporaneous with the Ramones (US) and Sydney’s Radio Birdman.The Saints favored fast tempos, dissonant sardonic vocals, squalling feedback, and jagged guitar riffs, they couldn’t get gigs, so they ran their own dances, they couldn’t get a recording contract, so they formed their own record label, Fatal Records, and booked two hours studio time with Mark Moffatt at a local jingle studio called Sunshine in Brisbane, the record they produced sounded like a live session, because it was!The session produced the record (I’m) Stranded backed with No Time, the master tape was taken to Astor, who pressed the single on the Saints’ own Fatal Records label, Kuepper then mailed copies of (I’m) Stranded to record companies, radio stations, and journalists around the world.They were adored by the UK musical press, who when reviewing this song were tripping over their hyperbole, UK music magazine Sounds John Ingham averred “it is the single of this week and every week, there is no such thing as a middle eight, the singing is flat and disinterested, the guitars are on full stun…it’s fabulous”, others opined “it’s fast, knife-edged, and burningly persistent” and “The Quo or Ramones? This pounds them into the dirt,” and yet another “… a mite repetitive but vulgarly powerful.”
They couldn’t get any respect in Australia, but once the British press endorsed the Saints, and it became clear that punk was taking off internationally, Sire the UK parent of the local EMI label, directed their Australian office to sign the band without delay, and they did, despite previously rejecting the band because they were deemed to be “not sophisticated enough”.Bailey has claimed that the song was unintentionally sped up in production but Keupper, who used an aluminum 6-string Valeno guitar, above with the trademark v notched into the headstock, has disagreed “ He (Bailey) gets confused because I seldom tuned to concert pitch… the guitar on the recording was tuned up 2 semi tones , I would then use chords with open strings to achieve that ringing, uptempo sound.”
The band then spent a weekend in the studio to record the album, also known as (I’m) Stranded, which was a roaring, rock-and-roll fueled blast of arrogance and nihilism, which hit the market in January 1977, just a month after the Sex Pistols released their classic punk debut album Never Mind The Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols. There was an undeniable link between these two bands despite what the Saints may have thought of the Sex Pistols, the rage, hurt, and sense of dispossession expressed in both albums, released at roughly the same time, had a common thread of two expatriate Irish front men, in Bailey and Lydon (Johnny Rotten) both venting their Celtic spleen.
The band relocated to Sydney feeling Brisbane was far too small for them, and they got gigs supporting the equally infamous and unwanted Radio Birdman, but even the Birdman fans disliked them, especially when Bailey drew parallels between that band’s iconography and Nazism while on stage. Bailey felt that there was not a lot of kinship between the bands at the time, and Kuepper quite naturally had a distaste for ‘nationalistic’ type symbols, which the Birdman embraced.The promo video, shot in their Petrie Terrace Club 76, a building which was either being demolished or made over at the time, was an unadorned, monochrome, harshly-lit, punkish statement of intent, Bailey fronts the mic with his hair flopping over his face and dragging on a cigarette, the band kicks in, the singer flicks the cigarette to the floor and begins his vocal assault.
Just as the band had spurned mainstream rock they also rejected the Vivian Westwood “punk as a fashion statement” approach of Malcolm McLaren’s Sex Pistols, with spiky hair, safety pins, studded dog collars, and ripped jeans and instead let their music do the talking, chart-wise they suffered for taking this stance. Upon their arrival in Britain the band were an uncomfortable fit in the local punk scene (above), they never thought that being spat on by the audience was a sign of appreciation, Ed Keupper was keen to brandish his axe to demonstrate his displeasure, whenever this happened. Their first London show was a large one, June 5th and 6th saw them play the Roundhouse supporting the Ramones and Talking Heads – two bands that had made a name in New York years before punk had hit Britain. Despite the fact the Saints were at least contemporaries of the Ramones, they were relegated to the bottom of the bill and felt that they were being treated as nothing more than cheap imitators.
They released an equally good follow up in Swing for The Crime, which failed to chart here or in the UK, gone completely was the earlier buzz saw sound of Brisbane, and in its place was a complex and widely influenced, highly musical outing. Swing for the Crime was an almost perfect blend of Celtic drumming, horns, riffing and Bailey’s much more open, unimpaired vocals, he was almost singing, the lyrics and melodies were a complex blend of music and poetic style, but it wasn’t punk rock, and their record company was losing interest.They released a second album Eternally Yours and lifted another Bailey/Keupper song from it in 1978, the savage and brassy Know Your Product, but like its predecessor it too failed to chart. The band’s musical evolution was ending but Bailey and Kuepper, despite some personal differences, would continue to pursue their musical paths.The Saints did embrace horns, as early as the Swing for The Crime , as well as acoustic sounds in the future, and showed they were not one-dimensional, they were also influential, informing the future musical styles of American Henry Rollins and Nick Cave who said of the Saints “it was extraordinary to see a band that was so anarchic and violent … and Chris Bailey could really sing.” Ian Shedden (below) replaced Ivor Hay on drums in 1981 and toured with the band for over ten years, later he became better known as the erudite music editor of the Australian newspaper and remained in that capacity until he sadly passed away in 2017.
(I’m) Stranded barely charted in Australia but it has emerged as an Aussie punk classic, APRA rated the song one of the 30 Top Australian Songs of All-Time in 2001, and in 2001 the Saints were inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame along with INXS. The Saints inspired another Brisbane band in the Go-Betweens, as well as Melbourne’s Boys Next Door/ The Birthday Party/ Nick Cave, and Australia’s favorite little Aussie Bleeder Norman Gunstone, who released his near-miss I Might Be a Punk (But I Love You Baby) in 1977.